Project Title

Nutrient contamination from an agricultural non-point source and its mitigation: A case study of EKU Meadowbrook Farm, Madison County, Kentucky

Department

Geosciences

Abstract

Non-point sources are now responsible for most nutrient contamination in surface water and groundwater, leading to eutrophication and decreased water quality. Because of fertilizer use and animal husbandry, agricultural areas are prime sources of nutrient contamination. Consequently, we seek to mitigate entry of nutrients from Eastern Kentucky University Meadowbrook Farm into Muddy Creek, a tributary of the Kentucky River.

Over the past two field seasons, we have investigated the sources and behavior of dissolved nutrients (phosphate, PO43-; ammonium, NH4+; nitrate, NO3-) and other dissolved ions, and their transport via hydrologic pathways at the Farm. Here, we present our findings in three parts:

(1) background nutrient concentration in surface water and groundwater during fair-weather times and identification of likely nutrient sources;

(2) details of cation and nutrient drainage from the Farm during rain events; and

(3) quantification of nutrient export from a representative sub-watershed on the Farm during a major rainfall event.

Nitrate is the nutrient contaminant with highest median concentration (~1.1 mg/L N-NO3) in surface waters; median concentration for ammonium and phosphate are ~0.3 mg/L N-NH4+ and ~0.03 mg/L P-PO43-, respectively. Relative to national data, Farm groundwater is enriched in all nutrients with median concentrations of ~0.04 mg/L N-NH4+, ~7.3 mg/L N-NO3, and ~0.04 mg/L P-PO43-. Enrichment in ammonium is more significant compared to that of nitrate and phosphate. These data provide fair-weather, background estimates for comparison to nutrient export that occur during rain events.

Presentation format

Poster

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Nutrient contamination from an agricultural non-point source and its mitigation: A case study of EKU Meadowbrook Farm, Madison County, Kentucky

Non-point sources are now responsible for most nutrient contamination in surface water and groundwater, leading to eutrophication and decreased water quality. Because of fertilizer use and animal husbandry, agricultural areas are prime sources of nutrient contamination. Consequently, we seek to mitigate entry of nutrients from Eastern Kentucky University Meadowbrook Farm into Muddy Creek, a tributary of the Kentucky River.

Over the past two field seasons, we have investigated the sources and behavior of dissolved nutrients (phosphate, PO43-; ammonium, NH4+; nitrate, NO3-) and other dissolved ions, and their transport via hydrologic pathways at the Farm. Here, we present our findings in three parts:

(1) background nutrient concentration in surface water and groundwater during fair-weather times and identification of likely nutrient sources;

(2) details of cation and nutrient drainage from the Farm during rain events; and

(3) quantification of nutrient export from a representative sub-watershed on the Farm during a major rainfall event.

Nitrate is the nutrient contaminant with highest median concentration (~1.1 mg/L N-NO3) in surface waters; median concentration for ammonium and phosphate are ~0.3 mg/L N-NH4+ and ~0.03 mg/L P-PO43-, respectively. Relative to national data, Farm groundwater is enriched in all nutrients with median concentrations of ~0.04 mg/L N-NH4+, ~7.3 mg/L N-NO3, and ~0.04 mg/L P-PO43-. Enrichment in ammonium is more significant compared to that of nitrate and phosphate. These data provide fair-weather, background estimates for comparison to nutrient export that occur during rain events.